Ever since it was announced that Respawn was working on an official Star Wars game, the hype has been building about what exactly it would be. Now that E3 has been and gone, we can more assuredly say we have an answer to that. However, this leads us to another question, how does it play?
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is a single-player, action-adventure set between the third and fourth films (after the Republic was dismantled and as the Empire is starting to take shape). You play as one of the Jedi who survives the events surrounding Order 66, where the clone army exterminated their Jedi commanders. As a young Cal Kestis, you must do whatever it takes to survive, doing your best to evade the Empire and its agents.
So, now we've covered the overarching narrative, it's probably time to dive into the more nitty-gritty parts of the game. Whilst we were at E3, we got some hands-on time with the title, during which we got to play around with the mechanics in a combat training arena. Granted we didn't get to take a look at the full playable demo, but what we did see gave us enough of an insight into how the title's diverse control scheme works.
Unlike the Jedi/Sith gameplay in the rebooted Star Wars Battlefront games, Fallen Order is about strategy and tackling each fight with the utmost concern for your life. You can't just run into combat expecting to steamroll whatever unfortunate enemy walks into your path because that will likely mean death. This is a game about being a Jedi, and that means playing smart, taking calculated actions, and above all else, having the ability to remain calm during stressful situations.
Fallen Order allows players to freely move and jump whenever they'd like, but there are more interesting mechanics built around traversing the world that are a little more unusual. You can evade attacks, for example, by using a combat-roll, as well as lock onto enemies during combat to make every duel feel as authentic as possible. On top of this, by simply holding down a trigger, players can deflect and block with their lightsabers. This will protect them against the most basic of attacks but it does come with a maximum number of usages before being broken (although more about blocking will be mentioned soon when we get to parrying). As a final brief mention, players can heal in the game by asking the little droid on Cal's back to fix him up. This healing ability has a limited number of uses and can be interrupted, meaning finding the right time to help yourself is of the highest priority.
The basics of the combat system in Fallen Order might make the fleeting eye think of it as a hack and slash game, however, it's when you peer just beneath the surface that it really comes to life. There are parry mechanics which can be activated by blocking at the moment a strike is about to hit, and these are tied to timing, similar to old school Assassin's Creed games where you press the button at the right moment and you can basically eliminate anyone attacking you. That said, it's worth mentioning that parrying a blow can only be done during a tight window, making errors and taken damage all the more commonplace. As well as simply parrying basic enemy swings, players can deflect blaster rounds fired at them by blocking as the shot is about to hit, sending it straight back at the shooter.
On top of this, there are two types of attack, a standard single attack and the more powerful heavy attack (which uses the Force to increase its power). To perform heavy attacks, players must have enough Force power available, which can be gained by attacking enemies or by being out of combat. Whilst these attacks can break enemy blocks and deal heaps of damage, they are slow to perform, leaving you open to attack yourself.
As well as the standard ground-based attacks, Fallen Order lets you engage in some degree of aerial combat. Granted this is nothing on the level of Devil May Cry, but you can still jump and swing at those pesky droids with an affinity for the sky. While we're on the topic of jumping, it's also worth mentioning that Fallen Order is not a Star Wars game where you can leap hundreds of metres; you do have the ability to double jump and use certain specific climbing mechanics, like the iconic Respawn wall-running, but don't expect to clear the battlefield in one single leap.
As for perhaps the most iconic part of a Jedi's toolset, the Force is once again an incredibly powerful weapon. In Fallen Order, there are a few techniques that you can use to enhance his effectiveness in combat. First of all, is the ability to pull something toward him with Force Pull; this can be used to manipulate objects or even enemies themselves. Likewise, Force Push, its polar opposite, can be used to create space between Cal and his enemies or even move an object somewhere else. Another ability that can be used to affect the battlefield is Force Stasis, which allows Cal to slow time on objects or even blaster shots, thus allowing him to then use the other Force abilities much more effectively. Each of these abilities requires you to manage a limited supply of Force power, so planning and being tactical about each use is incredibly important.
Before we take a quick look at some of the enemies in the game, we know everyone is curious about throwing lightsabres, and the good news is that Fallen Order doesn't disappoint in this regard. If you have enough Force stored you can hurl your lightsaber through any enemies in front of you, although this can be dangerous as you will leave yourself open to attack once the weapon has left your hands.
Last of all, during our time we got to take a look at a whole host of unique enemies, some of which were resistant to the Force itself. There are typical troopers who use blasters, and there are also upgraded ones who are trained in melee combat. On top of this, there are even troopers with flamethrowers and rocket launchers, each of which is designed to destroy you in the fastest way possible. As for droids, we encountered two notable models; first of all were the flying droids (the ones from Hoth in Episode V), which fire blaster shots at faster rates than troopers and require the Force to pull them from the sky. The other was huge humanoid droids (the same ones from Rogue One), who take hefty amounts of damage and will not hesitate to literally squeeze the life out of you with a terrifying bear hug.
The Force resistant types, on the other hand, were shrouded in black clothes and used melee weapons similar to a lightsaber (but infinitely less cool). These guys consistently put up a tough fight and require players to be perfect when parrying. Finally, to wrap everything up, the biggest and most impressive enemy we came across was an AT-ST walker, which required us to slash at its legs without being crushed until the huge machine toppled over, leaving its pilot at our mercy. This was by far the most interesting and impressive fight we came across and it was a perfect way for us to finish our time with the demo.
After sitting down with the game at E3, we've come to the conclusion that Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is worth keeping an eye on. Respawn has given us a new hope that we might get another quality game set in A Galaxy Far, Far Away, and with it set to land later this year, we don't have long to wait and find out just how strong the Force is with this one.